“No plans to review fracking tremor rules” – regulator

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Equipment leaving Cuadrilla’s shale gas site, 10 January 2019. Photo: Jo Thomas

The government appears to have rejected calls by Cuadrilla for a review of the rules on earth tremors caused by fracking.

The company said in a statement at lunchtime it had requested an urgent review of the traffic light system, which requires fracking to pause for 18 hours if there are tremors measuring 0.5ML (local magnitude) or above.

But the Oil and Gas Authority, which is responsible for regulating fracking-induced seismic activity, confirmed to DrillOrDrop this afternoon:

“There are no plans to review the limit under the traffic light system.”

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, later told The Guardian:

“The government believes shale gas could be an important new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits including the creation of well paid, quality jobs.

“That’s why the government has given the industry significant support to develop while ensuring that our world-leading regulations remain in place to ensure fracking happens safely and responsibly.

“We set these regulations in consultation with industry and we have no plans to review them.”

Cuadrilla announced it had fully fracked only 5% of the first horizontal well at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool.

It said the 0.5ML limit had “severely constrained the volume of sand that could be injected into the shale rock” during the fracking process. The well is now shut in and fracking equipment has been taken off the site.

Fracking at the Preston New Road well, known as PNR1, induced 57 seismic events in two months. The 0.5ML limit was reached three times during fracking and five times afterwards. The most powerful tremors measured 1.1ML and 1.5ML and were felt near the site.

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Seismic events at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site up to 14 December 2018. Source: Refracktion

Cuadrilla said today there was “more than ample evidence to justify an expert technical review” of the traffic light system and a revision for Preston New Road, “without compromising safety”.

The company said:

“Subject to the outcome of such a review Cuadrilla plans to complete hydraulic fracturing of the PNR1 well, fracture the PNR2 well [the second well drilled at the site] and carry out flow testing of both wells later this year.”

DrillOrDrop asked the company about the future for the Preston New Road site if there was no review of the traffic light system or TLS.

A spokesperson for the company said:

“We have asked for a review of the TLS, and will await the outcome before making any further decisions.”

Cuadrilla’s call for a review follow comments earlier this week by Ineos, the UK’s biggest shale gas licence holder. Its owner, Jim Ratcliffe, described the traffic light system was absurd and unworkable.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has not responded to the Ineos comments, nor has the energy secretary, Claire Perry. But yesterday, she told a sustainability leaders’ forum, quoted by Utility Week:

“We’ve obviously been very clear about our environmental limits, which I think are the best in the world, and if [fracking] companies can operate within them then they’ll be welcome to do so.”

Last month, Ms Perry re-stated the 0.5ML limit in her reply to a parliamentary question on the traffic light system. She said:

“These regulations ensure that the risk of seismic activity during hydraulic fracturing is assessed in advance and that operations are closely monitored to allow action to be taken by the OGA [Oil & Gas Authority] and other regulators where necessary.”

Full details on the Cuadrilla statement and reaction to it

Updated to include comment from Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Categories: Regulation

103 replies »

  1. “The most powerful tremors measured 1.1ML and 1.5ML and were felt near the site.” Sorry but can you actually claim this?

      • Again clueless speculation based on a biased opinion. Have you spoken to any of those that reported feeling the bigger seismic activity to test the veracity of their claims?

        • Would that test it, Pavlova??

          No. I will still stick with the BGS.

          If I wanted, I could find plenty down my local feeling all sorts of things in a couple of hours time. They would still make a better fist of it than the ridiculous statement of a speeding car crashing into a nearby door. Having observed the “need” to call out the emergency services elsewhere with no consultation, excuse my caution.

    • I am a big supporter of the oil industry including Fracking as I have worked in it for the last 30 years but I completely agree the limits should not be changed Cuadrilla said they could do it with the current traffic light system now they are moaning to get it raised. They our just damaging the credibilitly of the rest of the Operators

      • Andrew – there is quite a difference better the traffic light system suggested by the Green et al report than the one adopted by DECC. It’s diffucult to know who accepted what. It’s also the case that the current TLS was meant to be reviewed – that’s all those who are involved are asking.

  2. Well. There seems to be gas there to be extracted is you believe Cuadrilla numbers and their geologists report. But the government dont want to develop it then it is all over for Cuadrilla.
    My bet is Claire Perry will say no because too much pressure from the activists.

    • My bet is that there might be a snap general election and the decision will be put off until then. The way that JC is handling Brexit will put the Tories back in with a bigger majority and then it will be frack baby frack

      • Tory’s 10 years at least out of power for the Brexit debacle, massive split in party with the blue rinse brigade and the closet TommyRobinson fans making the inevitable move to Spewkip.

        • If there was an alternative Pavlova, you might be close. The public can also see what Gardiner can see, b******s as a policy. Same mistake the Democrat supporters are making in the USA.

          Voters always end up voting for those who will do things, rather than those who avoid doing things. And that will be magnified after Brexit.

      • On a different thread you suggested that I should examine James Verdon’s blog “Frackland”. I see that although he still discusses matters in his comment box, he has not placed a full fresh item on his blog since 25 January 2016. Since which much of the debate on fracking has emerged. But I will seek to raise matters with him in time. You also challenged me on how I was using the word “subsidence”. I was using it in the normal sense which covers ground surface areas collapsing, cavings in or sinkings. There can, of course, be a variety of reasons for this. The Coal Authority (from a link I provided you with) show that this happens, however, widely in former coal mining areas (which go back for over centuries) – and which can occur in what are now built up areas, as well in open fields. Why would natural earthquakes and also facking activity not add to the danger of such forms of subsidence occuring ? A few years ago there was a wide recording of such incidents across Britain from an earthquake in Lincolnshire. To discuss subsidence we need to employ its common usuage. Although words do differ in their use, the Philosopher Wittgenstein pointed out that many words when used will often share a “family resemblance” as far as their employment is concerned. So why is this word to be dismissed when seismic activity is being employed for fracking purposes ? If it can’t again happen, why is this ?

        • Harry – it’s a big shame James hasn’t kept up his blog. That I have been told was due to a complaint by “Prof” Smythe to the VC of his University. It appear Smythe doesn’t like like being criticised in the same way that he criticises others

          • Thats funny given the amount of smearing that the pro frack contingent go in for.

            Prof. Smythe and Mike Hill both been subject to very nasty personal campaigns.

        • Harry – cavities created by mining don’t stay open for ever – they will close. There is a slight possibility that an earthquake generated by fracking could result in what you describe but the mine would have needed to have been so unstable that the event would have occurred naturally anyway. The things that you describe are very low down on things like me should worry about. I would argue that the biggest risk with fracking is traffic accidents. But that’s like any other business that transports goods by road.

        • Seismic activity has been utilised for centuries across the UK and elsewhere, with far fewer controls than now imposed.

          Last time I looked Cornwall was in pretty good shape.

          Equally, 2 million fracked operations done in USA, with far wider limits than current in UK, or likely in UK. Not a lot of evidence from there. Mind you, they are now the largest suppliers of surplus shale oil into Britain, but best not to consider that.

    • She will more probably dither and delay, and then her boss will probably be out in April. Then, she may become a bit more business friendly, or more likely, she will be moved on to another area.

      At the moment, Plan A energy policy is in tatters as far as industry, security and affordability is concerned, and any Plan B that makes that worse is going to sink whoever tries to deliver it.

  3. And you wonder why the UK is tanking amongst our global competition and will continue to do so. Poor decisions by a pathetic government. The next pop of the bubble will sink us a few places on the global stage. Our pound will continue to sink which would be great for exporters only we have no vast numbers of home grown ones.
    There are far more opportunities elsewhere, luckily I can up and leave the crumbling infrastructure of the UK behind. The greenie gang don’t seem to mind living in an heebie jeebie environment that they call ‘utopia’, not me thanks.

  4. This afternoon the OGA stated “There are no plans to review the limit under the traffic light system.” That is a clear statement. If you don’t like, there is nothing you, as an individual can do about it. Suck it up.

    If you really want some gas there is a decent supply of bottled propane available at the Preston New Road site.

    • Yes, it is a clear statement of the position as at this afternoon Waffle. It’s not a case of liking it, it is a case of whether it will stick. Tomorrow, they could add “We have now made plans to review.”

      “Nothing you, as an individual can do about it. Suck it up”. Hmm. Perhaps you should let those at PNR know!

    • Waffle – you should really start to understand political speak – May said a few days before announcing the last general election that there were no plans for a snap election

      • “May said a few days before announcing the last election that there were no plans for a a snap election.” Yes Judith. And that went well didn’t it?

  5. Was there any structural proof to the damage caused by these tremors, and these were only slight tremors, NOT Earthquakes!! Fact.

      • So, the thrashing of the dying herring…..looking for a good place for a get together right now…champagne on ice

      • Put simply the Government doesn’t want it. No money in it. To costly to police. To much above ground resistance and to many unknowns beneath. Ideal time for the Government to drop it using the 0.5M threshold as a get out.
        They have managed to spin it out for a good few years to take the most off the smaller investor but not for much longer. Not much going on in Europe either. I doubt these start up companies can hang on much longer.

        • JohnP – Do you take such glee at the thought of other UK industries losing market share to overseas produces or is your glee just kept for the shale gas industry?

          • ‘other UK industries’ would suggest Cuadrilla is a UK industry? Humm, now let me see…….

            What shale gas industry?

          • Judith – JP is not a typical Greenie – he loves the UK North Sea and gas / associated gas. He just doesn’t want it produced in the area where he lives. His favourite company is Total (not British last time I checked) and his favourite fields are Laggan and Tormore which I expect have quite high fugitive (red herring) emissions and much higher drilling well control risks.

            • My favourite company is Ørsted and Tesla. Both companies are leaders in renewable energy which will be the power source of the world. We still need gas for some time. Lucky for us we have our mighty North sea, huge reserves and a 350000 strong workforce. I look forward to seeing large onshore wind farms providing the UK with cheap clean energy in the near future. Some people don’t like them but they will have to get used to it.

            • JohnP – production from the North Sea simply can’t produce the amount of gas that the UK currently needs. Again this is a case where people with no expertise in the subject believe it can whereas those who’ve spent their life working in the North Sea realise that it’s impossible.

            • Sherwulfe- when we have a reliable energy storage system I’m sure we can get a lot closer to stoping using gas to create electricity

    • That’s the TLS working, the fracking triggered a small tremor so had to stop before a larger tremor did some damage. At Preese Hall farm a tremor crushed the drill pipe which meant the well had to be abandoned, that incident led to tbe TLS which was designed to stop something similar happening. You should be pleased, it saved the well this time round but perhaps question why the operator is so careless about drilling through faults when it causes all this trouble?

  6. Today an announcement that average energy prices will rise by £117 a year. Now increasing onshore gas supply will not immediately lower prices but surely we should be making every effort to make use of our own resources, which in the medium term could help avoid increasing fuel poverty and lower gas imports.

    • It has already been admitted by the industry that shale gas will be sold to the highest bidder and won’t reduce prices.

      • Except taxation in the UK can be used for lots of things, Pauline-like increased winter fuel allowance for the vulnerable, as an example. Sending that tax element to USA or Norway, they could do the same-or build walls with it.

        Sorry, the antis continue to plug this one and it is simply nonsense. It may very well reduce prices even if sold to the highest bidder. It really is not rocket science.

    • ‘make use of our own resources’

      Home grown North sea gas miles cheaper than UK shale would have been. 20 years of reserves left and an experienced workforce of 350000.

      Surely you can see UK shale is a total loser

      • Which is why we are importing increasing quantities of gas??

        Obviously you have an interest in N.Sea gas. So does INEOS. They also have an interest in UK shale. They are also importing US shale gas.

        Like most situations, one does not preclude the other. And, once you start speculating about cost of an item which has yet to be produced, it rather defeats the purpose.

        • Hurricane’s problem is what to do with the gas – they would like to flare it so they can produce the oil. Long term test – i.e. flow as long as they are permitted to burn the gas offshore.

    • North sea gas way cheaper than UK shale would ever have been. Do pro frackers actually know that we export more home grown North sea gas than we import in LNG?
      Personally I am happy when our Government tell us we have a diverse secure energy system. Pro frackers who are worried this might not be the case should form a group and protest outside Downing street demanding the immediate ban on North sea gas export.

  7. The end for Cuadrilla?

    The Government appear to have been quite clever. They got Cuadrilla to spend a lot of money and assess Bowland Shale feasibility, a lot of information for BGS etc., no political damage as the TLS is an Industry own goal, and they can get rid of Cuadrilla and come up with a better strategy or just forget about it. Or they can licence smaller areas to bigger players and change the TLS after Cuadrilla pull out???

    But I am hearing that a TLS review is underway but perhaps that is already complete?

  8. Hi Paukl – where the original 0.5 came from. As previously discussed outside this blog I still cannot telll you anymore at this time due to confidentiality issues. But it would appear that the OGA are clear that there was / is no review…….so there is no review.

  9. Someone point it out to me that a government refusal may be subjected a judicial review and has a good chance of losing in the high court due to 2 things.
    1. The ministerial statement by Ed Davey at the time of TLS agreement in 2012 which the government and the designer of the TLS agree that was conservative and can be revised upward with more data and experience. Cuadrilla has produced data and scientific and operational and safety basis to justify this revision.
    2. Other industries are allowedto operate under higher seismic limit.
    The industry will argue that it has invested in uk shale with the understanding and faith that the Ministerial statement is effective and clear.
    Even Claire Perry said the government will review it but only when they have more data from real time operation.

    • Nice thought, but no one wants the shale gas……small thing called carbon emissions; something had to go and this is it. The whole thing has been dragged out to bale out the top boys and stash the cash. The dominoes are falling – hope you’ve all got your money out in time?

      • We are talking about the legal aspects of recent development here and not climate change or investment aspects of UK shale.
        I am sure many anti frackers are happy to know UK shale business is not registering as an investment grade in many fund managers radar.

        • “Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts.
          The first part is called “The Pledge”.
          The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man, (or a TLS).
          He shows you this object.
          Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal.
          But of course… it probably isn’t.
          The second act is called “The Turn”.
          The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary.
          Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking.
          You don’t really want to know.
          You want to be fooled.
          But you wouldn’t clap yet.
          Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.
          That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.

          Christopher Priest,
          “The Prestige”

          So what do we see here from this latest woo woo wheeze from Paul Tresto being all mysterious and secretive?

          Alluding to hidden cards perhaps, some arcane occult redefinitions’ of the 0.5 TLS limit?

          It shows that, right from the start, and as we have seen recently from this frantic flurry of self justification and downright blatant grandstanding, that right before our eyes, is that we have been, and are being played like a cheap Grangemouth plastic violin ladies and gentlemen.

          What this proves more than ever before, is that the failed fracking non industry in UK, is little more than a financial sleight of hand right from the start.

          A not so cheap card trick, a con, a scam, a fixed game, a loaded dice, a sham, played by boardroom wizards, street corner financial con men, and back door Monaco migrant magicians.

          The old three card trick, the ball and the cups, the flat fat cat out of the frack hat, while the real criminals pick your so pockets clean so fast you didn’t notice or even see them, hidden in plain sight.

          Now you see it, now you dont, the quickness of the hand deceives the eye, pick a back yard, any back yard, is this your back yard?

          Meanwhile the pick pocket is off and away amongst the crowd, taking your wallet, your watch, your countryside, your health, your government, your freedom and your democracy you future, and the shirt off your back.

          And you ask yourself:

          “What just happened?”

          Its frackicide, baby, frackicide…..

          And mind those traffic lights, are they green or are they red?

          Who just jumped the lights, and are they really there at all? Or just an illusion?

          And can you tell the difference anymore?

          It’s a rat trap baby, and you’ve been caught……

            • Forgive me BTW, i credited you all with more intelligence than you apparently possess.

              Never mind.

              My mistake.

              We’ve seen the pledge and the turn here on Drill or Drop in yawn producing somnambulistic avalanches of endless reframing of the issues and even emptier meaningless rhetoric.

              This drowning tsunami of desperation, twisting and tuning its way down to the eventual prestige, the denouement of the staged show.

              That was the Paul Tresto secretive oh so confidential remarks hinting at some deep dark goings on behind locked boardroom doors and heavy curtains.

              So we ask ourselves, can the sawn in half frack lady be put back together again?

              Will the audience gasp in awe and appreciation? Or will they scream in rage and anger that they have been played for suckers?

              Donald Tusk said that there is a special place in hell for no deal brexiteers.

              Perhaps there is a special place in hell for no deal frackers?

              And perhaps there is even a more special place in hell for those who “negotiate” a reframed TLS threshold without public consultation and parliamentary debate under the obscuring cover of the timely bottled brexit debacle?

              We shall see won’t we?

              I much preferred the previous version, but subtlety and humour was never a strong suit amongst the anti antis was it?

            • “That was the Paul Tresto secretive oh so confidential remarks hinting at some deep dark goings on behind locked boardroom doors and heavy curtains.”

              Time will tell PhilC
              By the way, your nonsense usually appears on Sundays – have you lost your sense of time?

              For confidential check out Wigan and Redman?

            • So i thought, lets play the wind up game for a change, just for fun, a gentle cast of the lure and here you are, wriggling and slapping on the deck. But never mind, i will just weigh you and throw you back for more fun later, just couldn’t resist the lure could you? Twas ever thus. We can all play at lure fishing you know, i told you that you would need a bigger boat, maybe the Monaco migrant will lend you one of his?

              Honestly Paul, i didnt think it would be that easy to play the old hook and barb game with such a good catch.

              And i thought you didnt read anything i write, but we all know that is not true is it? And here you are quoting me.


              Martian, eat your heart out, it wasnt true for him either was it? How can we trust anything you lot say?

              Silly question i know. But we know what game is being played here dont we Paul. Truth is no where on the menu is it.

              But never mind, its all in the playing of the street corner staged show for the captive audience and investors and mug punters. Just a “wind up”, that was what you said yourself wasnt it?

              Consider yourself “wound up” and hooked.

              I see you like to get all abusive too, but that is just noise isnt it, and as we have established before, the nastier you get, the closer we got to the truth, and the weak abuse is the standard issue knee jerk reaction to attempt to engage the ego to get an emotional response. Sorry old thing, it doesnt work.

              You forget i was trained in extreme negotiation techniques too, but i rejected it because it is an insult to humanity and destructive to human communication, only the Enemies of Humanity use it. Honesty is much more direct and far more devastating to the usual bluster and silly games we see portrayed here by you and your execrable colleagues who post such drivel every day of the week….

              Lets see, which lure shall we use next? This one caught Martian, maybe i will try that one next.

              Well, this has been fun, do tell us further what these yet even more mysterious “Wigan and Redman” references are about? Perhaps this is what you mean?


              Do you shop there? What has it to do with the TLS 0.5 RS limit?

              Oh well, never mind, i am sure Redmans of Wigan will be grateful for the advert.

              Have a nice day, and enjoy the groceries.

              If ever you decide to post anything that has a more adult and responsible content Paul, please let me know, and i will be happy to reciprocate, until then, well, there are more fish in the sea aren’t there.

        • “No one wants the shale gas”-factually incorrect.

          One individual may live off grid, but not representative of many more.

          The UK is currently reliant on gas, but is having to import increasing percentage of it. In addition to that, it is also importing gas from US fracking and oil from US fracking.

          Carbon emissions will be REDUCED if those US imports are replaced-even in part- by UK production.

          But thanks for another demonstration of how the antis throw out completely false statements and think there are some who are so ill informed they will mop it up. Actually, according to the Wave Survey they are correct, but as a deliberate policy it has a short shelf life.

          • So the infamous illusory two thirders are now reduced to the 60 percenters?

            60% proof is perhaps a more appropriate cause and result of such claims?

            Perhaps we should await a more sober result when people are not so diverted and uninformed about just how royally they have been screwed?

            • Probably hoping for a lift from “you know who”?

              “Like Websters dictionary they are Monaco bound”

              Ballast perhaps?

              Going to need a bigger boat….

            • Dear me, hooked again Paul?

              As we all know, its not my ego that is in question Paul, i gave it up for lent anyway, what you lot display here daily are far bigger and scarier egos than can be safely encompassed by the bridge of the Monaco migrant without capsizing.

              I could never hope to compete with those, and wouldn’t try, and as soon as you stoop to resort to abuse, we know we have triggered that old knee jerk reaction and gotten too close to the truth again dont we?

              Oh yes we do!


              Never mind, it will all be revealed by Redmans the Wigan grocer wont it?

              Maybe i’ll try this one next?

      • Sherwulfe, in the Far East the political imperative is to reduce urban pollution; climate change hardly gets a mention. The easiest way to reduce pollution is to replace coal with gas in urban areas and this is will continue and build. So the worldwide demand for gas, especially LNG, will increase. Far from no-one wanting shale gas, demand will continue to rise. The OGA has recently increased the control price for energy and the reason given is increasing wholesale prices, mainly due to increasing demand.

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